Professional regulation of healthcare staff

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
16 December 2015

Conference notes that professional registration is a topic of great interest to UNISON members working in healthcare.

Many of our members are required to be professionally registered to practise their professions. For some members such as healthcare assistants UNISON has long-standing policy aspirations for a statutory registration scheme. For other parts of our membership our policy position is less clear.

Conference believes that this reflects the fact that the current system of statutory regulation in healthcare is riddled with anomalies because of its piecemeal development. This is apparent from the mixed picture on regulation among occupations represented by the STAT committee.

Conference asserts the need for the right balance between regulation of service providers and regulation of those occupations where there is the highest risk of harm arising from how individuals practise.

Conference does not believe that current statutory arrangements are based on a consistent approach to public protection. Conference notes that the nine organisations currently regulating healthcare professionals in the UK all operate according to different legislation and standards, and are free to set different fee levels. Nor do we believe that the vacuum can be filled by simply developing more voluntary registers, as there will be multiple factors affecting whether or not a professional decides to join them. This leaves the public with no means of interpreting what the presence or absence of registration means for them.

Conference supports the PSA’s call for a reassessment of the role of regulation in promoting safety and quality. Conference also supports the principles behind the Law Commission’s proposals for streamlining of processes and realisation of efficiencies between the health professional regulators.

Conference believes that effective registration systems should be based on a set of core principles adopted by all the regulators:

i)Professional codes that are respected by employers and genuinely empower staff to safeguard and improve their practice

ii)Levers for ensuring that employers provide time and support for staff to fulfil professional development requirements

iii)Systems to regulate registration fee inflation so that it is transparent, accountable and does not exceed the level of annual pay awards

iv)Regular involvement and consultation with trade unions and professional bodies

v)Involvement of registrants within governance processes

vi)Fitness to practice thresholds and procedures that are proportionate and do not duplicate employer disciplinary or vetting and barring processes.

vii)Powers to make recommendations to employers and refer them to service regulators where fitness to practise proceedings reveal systemic issues and failures by employers.

Conference calls on the SGE to

1)ensure campaigning activity reflects and builds on our core principles

2)undertake further work to explore our members’ views and attitudes to statutory and voluntary registration across relevant occupational groups

3)review and develop our policy on statutory regulation on public protection grounds for any groups of currently unregulated healthcare staff

4)engage with the PSA in reviewing the purpose and structure of regulation of healthcare staff

5)seek to influence the Law Commission Bill, should it be enacted, to ensure greater efficiencies and streamlining of regulators

6)co-ordinate campaigning against excessive fee rises across all the regulators that cover UNISON members

7)campaign for better joint working between service regulators and professional regulators

8)campaign for recognition of the professionalism of all healthcare staff linking to the One Team campaign.